Broadcasting Glendale government meetings to televisions across the city requires more than the seamless image belies.
Deep in the bowels of City Hall, a handful of staffers work in real time to process visual and audio inputs from cameras and speakers placed in City Council chambers and other meeting rooms.
They then export that feed to cable channels and an online livestream.
Using outdated equipment, those staff members have recently been resorting to “workarounds” to send the video to Charter Spectrum and AT&T U-Verse, the cable channels that carry GTV6 and Channel 15, the city’s two government-access channels, according to Brian Halloran, a broadcasting coordinator with the city.
That should all change now that a roughly $1.8-million project to upgrade some of the station’s equipment is underway, Halloran said.
City Council members in May approved additional funding for the project, which has been in the works since early 2018.
The last time the Emmy Award-winning GTV6 station saw major upgrades was in 2006, according to a city report. The station launched in 1995.
“A lot of our equipment has become obsolete,” said John Takhtalian, deputy city manager, during a recent tour of the TV station’s control room in the basement of City Hall.
He pointed to the station’s encoders — the connection between the city’s signals and the cable providers’ signals — as an example.
“There’s no real way to repair them and, even if we do, the cable providers can no longer really accept that feed unless it’s converted into something they can understand,” Takhtalian said.
“So it was really time, based on all of these things, for us to upgrade all of this,” he added.
To improve the feed, meeting rooms will be outfitted with new cameras and speakers. The upgrades will also allow GTV6 to broadcast live from anywhere, instead of only within rooms to which the team is physically wired.
With the City Council chambers offline until May because of an unrelated elevator issue, the city has started the tech renovation process there, which will also include improvements to the lighting and microphones on the dais, Takhtalian said. Panels have been removed from the ceiling to allow for a necessary rewiring.
As part of the project, the station’s control room in the basement will be moved to the nearby General Services Building, where most of the station’s operations are already housed.
In that building, Takhtalian gestured to empty racks in a specially cooled glass case where the updated control room’s equipment will soon be placed.
Broadcast coordinators Halloran and Rob Townsend, and motion graphics specialist Hanry Safarian, currently have to shuffle between the General Services Building and the control room in the basement to cover meetings and attend to their other projects, which include shooting, editing, voice-overs and animation work for the city’s original programming.
“Our staff won’t have to go back and forth as much, which will help us save some time for sure,” Halloran said.
It will also allow the staff to multitask, Takhtalian said.
Right now, if a meeting is delayed or on a break, whoever is handling the live feed needs to stay on call in the basement. The move will allow that person to do other work — which is often tied to equipment that can’t be moved — during the downtime.
Townsend is the newest member of the group, having been with the GTV6 for “just 15 years,” he said.
Safarian has worked for the city for 16 years and Halloran for 21. The station also employs two hourly employees.
“That’s the part of it that works really well — that we know each other,” Townsend said. “Other than finishing each other’s sentences, we all know how we work the deliverables, and it just makes it cohesive.”
On a recent Friday morning, Safarian was working on a soon-to-be-released animated public service announcement about Glendale’s upcoming local election.
Meanwhile, Townsend was reviewing a video featuring the recent opening of Studio Movie Grill for a series called “Spice of Glendale,” about new restaurants and other businesses that have arrived in the city.
Takhtalian pointed out that Savannah Spicer, the “star” of the nearly 1½-minute clip, is a member of the city’s economic development team, not a professional actor.
“It’s [the television] staff essentially getting out there and putting something of that high quality together, and it’s really them who make the nonprofessionals look that much more professional,” Takhtalian said. “It’s the skills, it’s the training and it’s the equipment that goes into a lot of it.”
Funding for the upgrade project is coming from what’s known as Public, Educational and Governmental, or PEG, fees. The cable channels that the city contracts with are required to collect the fees and remit them to the city, under federal regulations.
There are restrictions on what the funds can be used for, Takhtalian said. They can be used for capital improvements, like the current project the city is undertaking, but not for salaries and other types of operational costs, he said.
When funds were allocated last spring, the city also awarded a contract to Western Audio Visual to design and construct the project. A separate company will perform oversight functions, Takhtalian said.
The design and construction of the project is expected to take 150 days, according to a city report.